Updated: Sep 22
A Note to Readers: My motivation in writing this piece is to engage in some long overdue personal catharsis, confessionals, and blood-letting regarding the 2014 Seahawks and subsequent 2015 Super Bowl. The 2014 season will be remembered more as being another jewel in a crowded crown for Brady than being one of the most horrific sports tragedies in NFL and American sports history. It is against this backdrop as a Seahawks diehard that I will put myself on the couch and attempt to deal with this trauma head on. Today is the first step towards properly mourning and processing this sports tragedy. To completely exercise the demons of that fateful night in Glendale and understand how Seahawks fans reached the nadir of sports suffering, we need to know how we got there, what happened in the moment, and the fates of those most closely involved. If you aren't a Seahawks fan, this won't mean nearly as much to you. I struggled with how long to make this article before I realized who I was actually writing this for. First and foremost myself as I've never given this trauma the proper attention it deserves. Secondly, perhaps other 12's will find this piece as therapeutic and regenerative as I did writing it. Third, maybe you have your own recessed sports tragedy to process through and can begin to mend alongside other Seahawks fans and I.
Full disclosure: I anticipate this to be one of the more biased, fan-centric, emotional sports-fan-yelling-at-the-TV from the couch wearing my #24 Lynch Jersey pieces of content I'm likely to ever produce for you. There is simply no way around this for me with the emotional attachment and investment I had in the 2013 and 2014 Seahawks teams and my own individual life circumstances at that time. I can't deny that those teams mattered A LOT to me, likely much more than they should have to a 32 year-old grown man. They mattered so much to me that the play which is the focus and genesis of this article has been and will likely continue to be one of the handful of touchstones in my life I expect to remember with perfect clarity up until my last moments.
This writing is not meant to serve as a dick-measuring competition set to parse out who the best fans are and attach merit to those who seem to care more about the arbitrary results of athletic contests than other fans do. That being said, I think we can all agree that sports does create stronger emotions and attachments in some of us. Try as I might to deny, suppress, or change it, I unfortunately fall into this category of fan. I wish I didn't. Only rarely is the juice actually worth the squeeze of being this attached to other grown men you'll likely never meet despite you putting their name on your back and essentially announcing yourself as a crying, screaming, 14 year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
The 2013 and 14' Seahawks were two of those instances where the juice absolutely and positively WAS worth every last bit of the squeeze. God damn were they worth it. The forthcoming next few thousand words will detail precisely why what happened to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1st, 2015 is the single greatest tragedy in major American sports history. See, I told you it would happen. There's my false-uniqueness bias standing right over there next to the window after a shower with no towel on telling me my pain is worth more than someone else's. Well of course it is you dummy, it's happening to me. In all seriousness though it actually is the worst tragedy. If you don't believe me now, check in with me again in an hour when you're done.
Alright, let's do this. Deep breaths. I'll try not to ugly cry too much, but if this turns in to something resembling Bowser screaming and wailing about his unrequited love for Princess Peach, I'm afraid you'll just have to deal with it and give me a pass.
Hilary's Step¹ was considered to be the last difficult climbing obstacle expert mountaineers faced prior to reaching the summit of Mount Everest, better known as The Top of the World. (It was damaged significantly in 2015 by an earthquake which not coincidentally ties in quite nicely with our timeline here). Less than 200 vertical feet (28,839 ft) from the summit (29,031 ft) of Everest, Hilary's Step rewarded it's conquerers with a relatively easy trek across the summit snowfield to the peak. To those unfortunate enough to have a misstep here though, a multiple-thousand meter fall awaits on either side of the cliff face.
Climbers facing Hilary's Step are located inside what is known as "The Death Zone" -- the area above 8,000 meters (26,246 ft) of elevation shared by only 14 peaks on the planet. Oxygen is in such short supply here most unadapted human beings can't survive more than a few minutes without a supplemental source of it. Even for the most experienced and talented climbers in the world, it's not recommended to spend more than 16-24 hours at these elevations. In other words: get in, document your 45-second pre-rehearsed NBA pregame level handshake on TikTok with Jesus because why not–you're already in his living room–and then kindly GTFO if you'd like to live.
As terrible as not having adequate enough oxygen to breathe sounds, asphyxiation is not what tops the list of fatal conditions in the Death Zone. Rather, it is complications that stem from this lack of oxygen. Depleted O2 levels wreak all sorts of havoc in our bodies, not the least of which are hallucinations and delusions, lethal cardiopulmonary issues, extreme nausea, dehydration, blindness, disorientation, and severely impaired decision making. Scores of climbers have made the pilgrimage to this rocky altar on Everest's South Col only to meet their demise mere feet from the threshold of the universe and mountaineering immortality.
In a scene equaled by only the cruelest and most ironic of Greek tragedies, the Seahawks had already vanquished the assiduous task of defeating Everest's final gatekeeper. Over 99% of their journey now lay behind them in the rearview mirror. All that was required to access Everest’s inner sanctum and the gateway to the heavens was the utterance of a 5-word phrase they had already repeated 1,533 times before. ²
Then they fell through the ice.
Certain sports memories and traumas are so painful that I'm not sure total closure is ever possible, regardless of any amount of team success preceding or post-dating the tragedy. Putting my own trauma on display here even after the Seahawks emptied their bowels on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos the season prior is evidence enough. I would imagine if you asked a dyed-in-the-wool Spurs fan how much winning five titles between 1999 and 2014 lessened the pain of the 2013 Ray Allen Shot, the answer you would get nearly to a person would be, "Not Much." Same goes for the Patriots (but still kindly fuck off and die on a slow spit roaster Patriots fans, everybody hates you. Your city is cold, dank, and dirty and your women are ugly) and David Tyree ruining the only thing Tom Brady wasn't ever perfect at.
When the Seahawks lined up for 2nd and Goal at the Patriot 1-yd line with less than a minute remaining in Super Bowl 49, everything in the world seemed possible at that moment. We were about to be Super Bowl Champions. Again.
Then our wings started to melt.
The story of Icarus and his father Daedalus is a well-known Greek tragedy that appears as if it could have been written after watching Super Bowl 49 specifically. In the story Daedalus and his son Icarus are imprisoned on the island of Crete by King Minos after Minos believes that Daedalus has helped Theseus (who was supposedly banging his daughter. Amazing how certain things don't change whether it's a bunch of white dudes with their penises painted on canvases or that scumbag dating your daughter isn't it?) escape from the Labyrinth, a perfectly constructed maze by Daedalus originally designed to imprison the Minotaur. Theseus kills the Minotaur and finds his way out of the maze with the help of his RideOrDie main bitch Ariadne, who gives Theseus one end of (apparently) a very long ball of string in which he can use to trace his steps back out of the Labyrinth. Brilliant. See kids, people got around just fine without Waze and Apple Maps. Turn left after the dead Minotaur was good enough for Theseus, so it should be good enough for you.
Upon learning that Theseus has escaped, Minos assumes that only Daedalus could have assisted him since he was the only one who knew the secrets of the maze. Again, somethings never change. "It couldn't have been my perfect little Princess that helped him escape! It must have been........ (looking around for someone to point at, lands on Daedalus) that guy! After we paint his beautiful nuts on this canvas let's hack them off!“ As a means to escape from their imprisonment, super-crafter and Level 10 DIY-er Daedalus constructs wings made of feathers bound by beeswax for his son Icarus and himself. Daedalus warns Icarus that the gift of flight will tempt him to either fly too close to the sea or too close to the Sun, both of which will damage the beeswax and render the wings inoperable. Intoxicated by a combination of hubris and the exhilaration of flight, Icarus refuses to heed his father's warning and races towards the Sun anyways. The first time fentanyl hit of being able to soar in to the heavens causes Icarus to not notice the beeswax holding his wings together has begun to melt. By the time Icarus realizes what has happened, his fate is sealed. He flaps his now featherless arms in vain as he plummets back towards Earth and crashes into the sea and drowns before his father can rescue him.
The agony of having only 3 feet separating the Seahawks from achieving everlasting football life will be forever seared into the chests of the Seahawk faithful with a finality that only the 600-degree white hot branding iron of sports misery can bring. The butterfly effect created by Malcom Butler intercepting Russell Wilson at the goal line to end Super Bowl 49 permanently fractured the paths of everyone involved in that play and altered the course of NFL History forever. The outer ripples of that meteor strike are still reverberating at this very moment.
When you are a first-hand witness to a tragedy of this magnitude involving something or someone you love, you're never the same afterwards. You can't be. I will never forget where I was when my brain fully processed what I had just witnessed for the first time. When Butler intercepted that pass, something inside me shattered that will never be repaired. I saw my sports child get obliterated by a train right in front of my eyes before I could save them. Grown men probably shouldn't let something as arbitrary as sports have that kind of effect on us. But they do--they always have--and will continue to do so.
The relationships we have with our teams and athletes really aren't all that different from other important relationships in our lives. You get out of it what you put into it. We have all been or know the person who has experienced a horrific breakup or divorce and swears off future romantic partners entirely. The length of this period differs for everyone, but after the shock and anger of the initial trauma subsides, basal human urges to fulfill physical and emotional needs start to creep back in. We get on dating apps, we go to bars, we get set up on blind dates from friends, and ever so slowly start wading back into the pool. We tell ourselves that "I'm never getting married/dating/doing that ever again. Our brain in turn loves to hear these things because deep down we want to still be mad and draw on that anger. Sooner or later though, someone you weren't expecting throws a wrench in your spokes. We know what likely lies ahead at some point, but we do it anyway, because human nature wires us to want to be a part of something and experience joy.
Following the Seahawks loss in SB49, my behavior pattern resembled one of these catastrophic grief scenarios. It was radio silence for months for me when it came to watching any sports or listening to my favorite podcasters talk about them. I just couldn't do it. Not that I'm some all-knowing oracle, but I knew the Seahawks would never be the same after that play. Though they continued to have success through the 2020 season until Russell got hurt in '21, they never again came close to duplicating the dominance and success of the '13 and '14 teams.
Despite what Hollywood and well meaning mothers may tell us, everything is not always going to be ok. Stories don't always have redemptive heroes and happy endings. The uncomfortable truth about the Seahawks loss in Super Bowl 49 to the Patriots is that they just plain fuckin blew it. They didn't get beat by a better team, the refs didn't screw them, there were no Hail Marys or goofy trick plays nor were they missing any of their major players due to injury. They just.......blew it.
Let's rewind in time for a minute. This will read like a walk down memory lane for Seahawks fans but it's my party and I'll cry if I want to. You would cry too if this happened to you. To understand why the Seahawks even had the audacity to call a pass play at the 1 yard line to Ricardo Lockette, it's important to understand how we got there in the first place. The seeds of that poisonous bramble were sewn the moment Carroll arrived.
Lest we forget, prior to Pete Carroll arriving in 2010 the Seahawks were coming off consecutive seasons of 4-12 and 5-11. The 2008 team was just a big stack of stinky, wet cardboard. The 05' Super Bowl team had disintegrated in what seemed like an instant into a whole bunch of can't/won't/I don't wanna/I ain't gotta/I probably shouldn't/would you like a hard candy?/please honor my DNR as written. 2008 would be the last season for G.O.A.T. LT Walter Jones, one of the best players in NFL History that no one outside of Seattle knows anything about. Jones owns one the best stat nuggets I've ever come across. Jones made the Pro Bowl (3) and the All-Pro Team (6) as many times as he was called for holding. (9). I feel like James Carpenter used to get called for 9 holding calls a game. There are many that consider Jones the best player in franchise history, and I can't say I disagree with them.
Shaun Alexander was already gone by '07, having peaked spectacularly--in what else--the 2005 season in which he set the TD record (albeit briefly until LT broke it the following season) and garnered league MVP honors. I'm thinking it's quite possible he made a deal with Ursula the Sea Witch for his 2005 season as his fall from grace upon it's conclusion felt like somebody popped a circuit breaker with a plug-in leaf blower. Death comes for us all, and for some of us it's not very pleasant. Mr. Alexander did not go peacefully in his sleep, the vending machine fell on him while he was trying to retrieve his Junior Mints. He was totally cooked and tasted worse than British cuisine by the '06 season and whimpered out of the league by '08 after about an hour with the Redskins. The only true bridge between the '05 SB Team and the Pete Carroll era was the quarterback.
Everything about the career of Matt Hasselbeck really was a time capsule from a bygone era of NFL football. Though never spectacular, Hasselbeck during his prime was the fuzzy-edged definition of "a really, really good QB" that should have (don't even get me started) a championship on his resume. It seems impossible now given the current pass-happy game plans of the league, but Hasselbeck never threw for more than 4000 yards or 30 TDs in a season. If you don't throw for 4000 yards now you are likely as not to be shot at dawn outside the service entrance of the stadium and strung up from a bridge as a warning to others unless your name is Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Daniel Jones, Kyler Murray or Justin Fields. Oh the jokes I could make about Daniel Jones' goofy white ass being in that group if we were sitting on a barstool together, but I just can't do it here. Hasselbeck had a strange career arc following the team's 05' peak, peaking himself in 2007 but also proving to be someone that Carroll and the team were ready to move on from by 2010, despite saying otherwise in the media. His dead-cat bounce back season in 2011 with the Titans as Jake Locker's $21 million babysitter was one of the better seasons a 36-or-older QB had posted until Tom Brady started sleeping in Swiss Chard pajamas and drinking his own organic urine. I'll say this about Matt Hasselbeck, he was elite at the only skill that really matters in the NFL: Keep Gettin' Dem' Checks. Though the $88 million he made in his career is probably what Turd Furgusons like Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill will be making per annum in two years, Hasselbeck was still the type of bank customer that gets greeted at the door with a coffee and a croissant instead of being waived over to the next teller in the far terminal with the chain pen on her desk after standing in line behind that shitty kid who keeps running in, out, and over all of the stanchion ropes while his 23 year-old mother updates her IG and flirts with the security guard.
While we usually tend to focus (with good reason) on the performance of players as they age in the NFL, coaches aren't immune to declines either. Mike Holmgren had an incredible run (1999-2008) as the coach of the Seahawks and absolutely deserves the lion's share of the credit for turning the Seahawks into a more than respectable franchise following whatever it was the Seahawks were doing most of the 90's. As does happen though even with the seemingly happiest and most successful of marriages, by the end of the 2008 season it was pretty obvious that the Seahawks and Holmgren needed to tip their hats to each other and go their separate ways. After Holmgren collected his last Retired-On-Job check in 08', the Seahawks spun the "Which Privileged White Guy Should We Hire Now?" wheel and landed on another first-team All-Pro Banking Depositor Jim Mora, who was summarily dismissed after a completely flaccid (5-11) 09' campaign with a declining Hasselbeck at the helm and a directionless, hodgepodge roster that even included a few carries from Edgerrin James which I had completely forgotten about. Mora was not a bad football coach, he just got ousted by the Seahawks having the chance to upgrade to a younger, far better looking woman who came from a better family who wasn't quite as much of an incessant, nagging bitch all the time. Mora was a victim of timing as much as anything; he was the one who didn't get a chair when the 05' Super Bowl music finally died out.
At least we had an owner who was willing to cut his losses and had the stones to just be with the new woman instead of slow boiling his current wife to death with a loveless, passive-aggressive marriage. Don't feel too bad for wife #1 through. I could be talking out of school here but I think there are a whole lot of men and women who might sell their equity in their marriage back to their spouses for $16 million. This next anecdote is completely unconfirmed as Tiktok was not yet invented thus preventing any video from being taken, but I'm reasonably sure this happened as I'll describe it.
As the story goes, Jim Mora was still owed almost $16 million for the remaining three years on his contract. When Seahawks owner Paul Allen was questioned by reporters how he could possibly afford to stomach paying Mora $16 million to just go away and not coach, his response was a beautiful lesson in billionaire math and a basic understanding of the decimal system that most adults in the United States were not and still aren't able to comprehend due to being some combination of poor and stupid.
"I was being flown to the practice facility in my helicopter when Pete (Carroll) called me back and said he had accepted our offer to be our next coach. Not wanting to delay things any longer than necessary out of respect for James, I instructed my pilot to dump out the contents of the helicopter ashtray onto the cockpit floor, remembering I had stashed an extra 30 or 40....hell I dunno maybe it was $50 million in there that I had brought with me on a little impromptu trip to Macau to play a few slots. Funny story though, we actually ended up diverting to airspace over Borneo so I could take an emergency shit out of the back of the helicopter over an area that no one cares about and wouldn't notice an extra pile of shit on the ground anyways. Wouldn't you know, the excitement of defecating out of the back of a helicopter caused me to forget all about the gambling and the money. I asked Tim, or was it Jim....Rob? Well anyways it doesn't matter something close to Tim or Jim to wait for me at his assigned parking spot because I had something I wanted to discuss with him. When we reached the parking lot I had the pilot hurriedly fill a plastic grocery bag tied in a teriyaki take-out style knot with give or take $22 million, which of course included a 30% gratuity for Todd. As a prank we also emptied the stinky helicopter trash can and the leftover garbage and uneaten food from our catered Indian lunch in the bottom of the bag, because for 22 million bucks John can take my trash to the curb am I right? We didn't foresee the trash landing on his hood and the money floating down like curry-soaked ash from Pompeii, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't completely hilarious watching Sean....or was it Ken maybe? try to pick it all up in the rain before the practice squad guys realized what had happened and rushed him like an exposed prison guard when all the cell block D doors mistakenly open at once. Growing a bit bored with the amount of time it was taking Kim to pick up $22 million in wet bills, I immediately called my buddy Gatesie who was hangin' out with Jeffy Eppy for the Parade Magazine High School All-American Volleyball Team Awards Banquet Dinner and Swimsuit Competition on Little St James to see if he wanted to live bet the leftover $24 million from the ash tray on who saw the next slug bug, I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 10, or the over/under of 78 degrees as the overnight low for Karachi tomorrow. Being the rich asshole that he is, Gatesie told me he would do no such thing unless I wanted to finish the $50 million you-call-it coin flip first to 50 correct guesses tournament we had started the previous year in which he was still leading 46-42. I told him to stop being such a little bitch over pennies and that I'd have my guy wire over a couple hundred million and the deed to Tonga I won in a poker game with Buffett as a sign of good faith when we got back to the office. Jim? What do you mean what happened to Jim? Who the hell is Jim? Have you idiots been listening to a word I've been saying?"
Rich Guy Side Note:
Allen was by far the richest owner in the NFL during his two plus decades as Seahawks owner. His net worth stayed remarkably close to $20BB for much of the time he owned the team. He would still be the 2nd richest owner in the league today, trailing only Rob "I gotta spend Daddy's money before I die" Walton, a man who like his other 3 siblings did jack shit nothing to be worth $60 Billion except come out of the right vagina and turn the lights on at a company built by his father which was already a global juggernaut. At least Allen founded a company that changed the world instead of getting the world as a present in his Easter basket.
In a sense the Walton family now has 2 seats at the NFL ownership table, as Ram's Owner Stan Kroenke was also able to "ghost ride the dick" of Sam Walton by marrying the daughter (Ann Walton) of Sam's brother (Bud Walton). Already rich AF himself from being the son of a lumber magnate and investing a whole bunch of Daddy's money in various real estate holdings, (That story sounds really familiar, where have I heard that before? It'll come to me later) Kroenke met Ann Walton on a ski trip to Aspen (where else do the ultra-rich go to smell each other's wet farts and marry off their children?) where Kroenke and Walton allegedly consummated their relationship in a bank vault Kroenke rented out and had filled with 6 tons of gold coins to emulate Scrooge McDuck's Duckburg Money Bin. He then proceeded to use the 0% interest no credit check multi-billion dollar credit card issued to him by the Bank of Walton to develop a whole shitload of commercial real estate complexes conveniently located right next to--you guessed it--a metric fuckton of Walmarts. No shame in Stan's game whatsoever, who in 2015 fucked St. Louis out of the Rams by playing the "we can't play in this dumpy stadium any more" card all the while having already agreed to build a new stadium in Inglewood, CA. After a years-long legal battle ending in November of 2021, Kroenke's Cronies (the other 31 NFL owners) and the NFL were forced to pay $790 million in restitution to St. Louis to which Kroenke was quoted as saying at the time:
"I'm sorry for fucking you out of your team St. Louis and adding billions to my own net worth in the process that I didn't need anyways. In my defense, I've kinda been doing the whole (air quotes) take a bunch of money that's not mine and make a whole lot more money with it thing for going on 50 years now, so it's on you for letting me do it. Here's $790 million I found in a crate in Rob's 18th garage at his backup vacation ski chalet in Park City. Don't spend it all in one place now, you hear?"
Allen's net worth would have been far greater than $20 billion had he held on to more stock in the years following his departure from Microsoft in 1983. Poor health, a strained relationship with Gates and his desire to invest in and fund just about everything under the sun fueled a more rapid sell-off. What a great guy and friend Gates is eh? He famously tried to fuck Allen on his way out the door by buying out his stock at a $5 per share valuation. How mighty white of you Bill. Your buddy Paul who was a mission-critical component to the company you BOTH started has to leave to deal head-on with a cancer diagnosis and you see it as an opportunity to try and buttfuck him out of his shares. I guess that's the kind of sociopathic ruthlessness it takes to run a Fortune 5 company in America, but fuck me Bill. That's some Grade A quality shit right there.
The current heavyweight champ of sports owner net worth is also another Microsoft guy, Clippers Owner Steve Balmer, who's $91 billion net worth would be enough to purchase close to if not ALL of the entire NBA or NFL if liquidated. Ballmer is far and away the richest person to ever make his money going to work for someone else in a company he had no original founder's equity in. Though his net worth exploded past Allen's with Microsoft's 5 year bull run from 2016-21, (Go figure, Ballmer has made FAR more money since he left Microsoft in 2014 than the 35 years he actually spent working at the company) Allen was completely gone from daily operations at Microsoft by 1983 and did whatever the hell he wanted to the rest of his life without having to answer to anyone. You tell me who did it better.
Last bit on the rich guys. My axe to grind with Ballmer extends to him not saving the Sonics when he had the chance to. The amount of money it would have taken to buy the Sonics and renovate Key Arena ($600-700 million) is give or take what these assholes spend on their boats now. He was in no way obligated to, but he could have kept the Sonics here with the amount of money kicking around the side pocket storage panels of HIS helicopter. Then I wouldn't have had to watch Kevin Durant's one season dick tease as a Sonic in 2007 before the inbred oil fracking fraudster Aubrey McClendon and his Mr. Slave 3-Time Oklahoma City Sub of the year Clay Bennett (issued by Oklahoma Dom/Sub Weekly) stole them in the middle of the night on horseback. Karma can be a real bitch though can't it Aubrey?
Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll came to be synonymous with each other as coaches and quarterbacks who achieve that kind of success together tend to become, but in 2010 Russell Wilson was still two years away, and none of the other names that came to be associated with the Super Bowl era of Seahawks football were even in the building yet. That 2010 draft produced iconic Legion of Boom members Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, along with Pro-Bowl left tackle Russell Okung. Something else equally important happened though. The Hawks took a chance on an immensely talented but distressed asset in 4th year Buffalo RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch needed a change of scenery as bad as anyone in the league due to some legal trouble surrounding a pedestrian-involved hit-and-run and a gun possession charge where marijuana was also found. Legal trouble wasn't Lynch's biggest problem in Buffalo though. The culture shock stemming from an Oakland kid being dropped on Buffalo's doorstep who had never seen snow before surrounded by a whole bunch of people that didn't look or sound like him made for an awkward fit from the start. Lynch needed a new address, and Pete Carroll was just the man to give it to him. Having seen Lynch first hand during his time at the helm for USC, Carroll was intimately familiar with Lynch's talents and capabilities. The Hawks scooped up Lynch for a 4th-round pick and not much else. The rest is well......you know.
Not that anyone cares, but it's my site so you're forced to listen. I also have one particularly fond remembrance of Lynch during his time at Cal. I'll never forget watching him "ghost ride the whip" after going for 150 yards and 2 scores including the winning TD in overtime against my Washington Huskies in 2006. This represented the best showing of the season for the hapless (5-7), Tyrone Willingham-led Huskies prior to Lynch dropping a Beast Modesize deuce on any hopes they had of actually winning the game.
The common narrative (especially giving his performance last year as a Bronco) surrounding the 2013-14 Seahawks is to shit on Russell Wilson and label him a game manager and elevate the defense to near mythical status. The importance of Marshawn Lynch is usually placed somewhere in between these other two entities in the Attaboy credit pie chart. That's not the way I see it. Certainly the Seahawks wouldn't have had the success they did in this period without Russell, the Defense, and Marshawn all amplifying each other's value and co-existing in a beautiful harmony. It looked to me that one of these pieces mattered just a little more than the others though.
"Marshawn on thr— , _____, _____"
At the outset of the 2015 season, Marshawn Lynch had played in 75 of 76 possible games for the Seahawks. He was impossibly durable given the sociopathic violence he ran the ball with. Before Russell arrived in 2012, the Seahawks posted consecutive 7-9 seasons with an already cooked Matt Hasselbeck and a not quite (R.I.P.) up to the task Tavaris Jackson. Despite winning the Beastquake playoff game in 2010 against the Saints that they had no business even being in, those first 2 Carroll squads were not good football teams. You could see they had the basis of something great though with Marshawn, Earl, Okung, Kam, K.J., Sherm, and criminally underrated rookie free agent Doug Baldwin. When Russ and Bobby Wagner joined the band in 2012, the Seahawks had a young, balanced (and frightfully cheap!) nucleus across both sides of the ball that really hadn't been seen before and certainly hasn't been since. The only things that will keep 6 of those 9 players from making the HOF is the career ending neck injury of Kam Chancellor and....whoever took over the body of Earl Thomas. More on him later. To acquire 6 HOF-level players and 3 other Pro-Bowlers in Okung, Wright and Baldwin in 3-year period is almost impossible, especially given only that Thomas and Okung were 1st-Round draft picks. (with the Seahawks, Lynch was selected 12th overall by Buffalo in 2007)
Despite the defense becoming legitimately historic with the greatest secondary ever assembled and Wilson quickly emerging as a dual-threat star, the unquestioned heartbeat of the team was still Marshawn Lynch. Everyone knows the iconic Beastquake run against the Saints and the 79-yard "Deez Nutz Biyutch" scamper against the Cardinals, but it's the unsexy, light of day truth about Marshawn's greatness that gets swept under the rug when we wax poetic about him. Dude just came to work. Every. God. Damn. Day. Regardless of season, opponent, or situation, Marshawn was coming down hill at you like a construction dumpster with a busted wheel lock. Hawk fans like myself had no idea what we were watching after 8 years of the extremely productive but contact-allergic Sean Alexander. Lynch's attitude and work ethic permeated everything the Hawks did, serving as the physical and emotional foundation the team was built on.
Scalding hot take forthcoming! Please stand back.
There has never been a back in the history of the NFL that ran harder and exerted more effort on a play-in, play-out basis than Marshawn Lynch. ~ Me.
Marshawn Lynch paid the steepest price of anyone involved in the Butler play. If he had scored the winning touchdown that propelled his team to consecutive championships and also been the game's MVP, (which he would have been) there is no doubt in my mind he would have hung his cleats on the goal post and called it quits right there. I bet he would have channeled Bo Jackson and ran straight in to the locker room, (another memory of the Seahawks getting the business end of something) quietly got dressed and leisurely walked out of the stadium a la Keyser Soze' never to be heard from again. What a site that would have been had he straight up skipped the MVP and Lombardi Trophy presentations and left Goddell there holding his dick. At least that's how I'd have wanted him to do it. Just throw up the deuces and be out dat' muh-fucka. No one gets that opportunity. Marshawn was staring it straight in the face.
The Seahawks stole his moment.
Not sure how else to put it. If you think anything short of a biological weapon was keeping Marshawn out of that end zone, you clearly didn't watch Lynch play as much as you should have. Jesus Christ himself armed with two Mac-10s and Thanos wouldn't have stopped Marshawn Lynch from crossing that goal line.
There were no free ones, ever. Forever, forever ever? forever ever? Forever never seemed that long til' Lynch was gone.
~ Andre 3000, Me
We are obsessed as sports fans and contributers with trying to assign as much credit or blame to one player or team unit as possible. In the NBA, we do this as a means to select MVP's, All-NBA Teams, and decide where on the pantheon you'll be placed when you're done. In football, we really only do this with quarterbacks as a means of deciding who is "elite' and who isn't. It's a bizarre thing to try and completely isolate individual behavior, characteristics, and attributes amongst activities (team sports) with an infinite amount of actions and reactions amongst 22 separate individuals. Huh? English please? Fine.
Whenever possible in the NFL we assign 100% of the praise for a team's success or 100% of the culpability for it's failures to the quarterback. This guy is elite! That guy sucks! That guy is a rapist! Everything has to be placed into these live or die, black or white, binary and legally binding categories. Nothing in life or sports is ever quite that simple though right? Even Brady and Mahomes, the best 2 quarterbacks to ever play the game, have had arguably the best two coaches (Reid and Belichick) of the modern era to guide them. Try as we might to make it this way, Nothing exists in a vacuum in sports. It certainly didn't for the 2013 Seahawks.
The balance that existed on that team between between Russell, Marshawn, and the defense was what allowed them to be in every single game. From 2012-14, the Seahawks didn't lose a game by more than 7 points. We just don't know what to do when we can't throw the Kentucky Derby flower bouquet over the helmet of the quarterback.
I'm going to directly contradict myself now and throw a whole lot of flowers over the quarterback. I could probably pen an article of this size just about Russell himself. I was in the tank for Wilson from the very beginning and remain a fierce defender of his time with the team as you will soon see. Given the level of excellence he displayed during his 10 years with the team, it's hard to sound like a reasonable person and gripe about anything that Russell Wilson did on the field for the Seahawks. It took Pete Carroll unofficially about 4 minutes to see that Russell Wilson was a better quarterback than recently signed free agent Matt Flynn. When you look at quarterback salaries from 10 years ago, it feels like it should be 1000. Flynn was our "big signing" in the 2011-12 off-season after he threw for 9000 touchdowns in a meaningless game against the Lions. Seems like a good data point to use for a large financial decision. Three years for $26 million is offensive coordinator money now, but at the time it was still a decent deal for a quarterback. Flynn didn't even make it to the first preseason game as the starter. It was obvious, at least to Pete Carroll and me anyways, that we had a Dude. A Dude that played a totally unique style of ball. Escape artist, runner, thrower, iron man, leader. The only thing that wasn't elite about Russell was his height.
Boy could that sum bitch run.
Not like Vick or Jackson though. Like Russ. There has never been a combination of timely, first down, achieving, protect yourself for the next play like early Russell Wilson. It's not something that I would make a plaque for, but he is the goat of the sliding to avoid contact running QB. This is why you actually have to watch the games though. During the 2014 season, Russ felt like as good an option to run the ball on any given play as any player in the league, including his battering ram teammate Marshawn Lynch. Russ was so good running the ball that season that fellow fans and I would scream at the TV incessantly to run him more. Despite all of the Randall Cunninghams and Steve Youngs and Michael Vicks and Cam Newtons and Tim Tebows and Colin Kaepernicks and Lamar Jacksons and Josh Allens and----I could go on listing quarterbacks forever because it won't matter----there have been only three seasons in total since 1990 in which a quarterback has averaged more than the 7.2 yards per attempt Russ did in 2014----two by Michael Vick (hands-down, the best running quarterback of all time) and one by Randall Cunningham (another athlete born somewhere other than Earth) in 1990. That's it. The early years of Russell Wilson running the football were absolutely beautiful to watch. Though never the pure burner that Michael Vick was, or Lamar Jackson is, Russ was still an incredible athlete that defensive ends had no hope of bringing down if he had the slightest of angles. Due to his prototypical running back build, (5'10, 210) Wilson actually looked like a running back when he took off. He tucked the ball correctly and didn't wave it around like a jackass like Vick did frequently and Lamar is prone to do. Combining his Houdini skills in escaping the pocket with his pure running talent, at times it felt flat out unfair and cruel to watch defenses try to contain him. As previously mentioned, Wilson was the best running quarterback at protecting himself gracefully that the league has ever seen, and he wore that title build the second he walked into the league. Whether it was his baseball background that taught him how to slide or not, what the stat sheet won't show you (other than consecutive played games of course) is that Wilson understood immediately that to be the best quarterback, you have to be an available quarterback. This is why I will always argue that Wilson could have absolutely posted the numbers of Vick/Newton/Jackson/Fields were it a priority for the Seahawks that he do so. Unlike the aforementioned players, Wilson only ran to and through contact when absolutely necessary. He understood the bigger picture, not to mention he had Marshawn for things like that. If Wilson had ran with the recklessness of the other great "runners", it's my assertion that his numbers (pick a stat, any stat) would have been equal to or better than any of them. As dominant as he and Lynch were together running the ball, Russell did something far better than any other QB at his size with his level of running talent.
He never missed games.
Given the offensive lines that he played behind for most of his time with the Seahawks, it's nearly impossible that someone of Wilson's size could have started 165 games in a row including the playoffs to start his career. I suppose I could say it is impossible because no one besides him has ever done it. If you'll indulge me, take a look at the following list:
Who do you think is the next most athletic quarterback on this list? After Ryan Tannehill all the way down at the extreme bottom of the list (who also sucks huge donkey penis not to bury the lead) it looks like a 21-way tie for 3rd to me--but I could be moved off of my position for a juice box and a warm spot to lie down. Who could forget the bucolic Brett Favre and his adorable farmers market mason jar on his bedside table full of crushed up Vicodin that he used to grab a couple of quick bumps off of before taking said jar with him to the kitchen and throwing a few heaping spoonfuls on his Frosted Flakes for good measure. Some of these guys listed don't have the athletic ability to claw their way out of a wet paper bag if they were trying to escape a fire. Most of these QBs here are fucking trees with helmets on, having 4-6 inches and 20-40lbs on Russell. I'm not sure that Eli Manning is even a human being. When I would watch him play, he reminded me of the episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes a boxing champion by letting the opponent beat him in the head until they tired out and he could just push them over, all the while suffering seemingly no brain damage. Probably didn't help the Mannings had for my money the two most punchable faces in NFL history. Those assholes look like a couple of trained alpacas stuffed in to collared shirts and sweaters when I'm forced to endure their inane banter on MNF. There isn't one guy on the above list other than Tannehill that Russell Wilson was not a better athlete than at 9 years old.
Do you notice any conspicuous absences from this list? I hope so. There are only a couple of guys on there that any reasonable person would even consider mobile, let alone a dynamic runner like Wilson. You don't see any Michael Vicks or Cam Newtons or RG3's or Randall Cunninghams or Steve Youngs or Lamar Jacksons (he wouldn't have enough games to make this list anyways, but he's already missed significant time in his career so it wouldn't matter) or Justin Fields or Kyler Murrays do you? No, you don't. Even Jalen Hurts missed time last season with a shoulder injury because of what? Mmm hmmn. Running the ball. The only current QB that is considered an elite runner that has not missed time is Josh Allen, who is on the extreme short list of the most physically gifted quarterbacks the league has ever seen and also the size of a Yukon moose after a couple of rounds of Dianobol.
Can you see it now? I'm not here to argue where Wilson belongs on any arbitrary list. What I am here to tell you is that there has never been a quarterback who has triangulated Passing Ability, Running Ability, and most importantly Durability like Russell Wilson. Ever.
Dude could sling it a bit too couldn't he?
When I say sling it, I don't just mean arm strength. I would lose any shred of credibility I have if I suggested that Russ had anywhere near the arm strength of Vick or Newton. Those guys were #1 overall picks for a reason. Their physical attributes jumped off the screen at you. Neither of them could hold a candle to where Russ could actually place the football. Newton and Vick could throw the ball through a brick wall for sure----they just couldn't hit any specific spot on that wall. Newton posted exactly 2 seasons in his career (including his near unanimous 2015 MVP season where it felt like the Panthers might go 19-0) where his QBR was north of 60. Russ has eight, including 6 seasons better than Newton's best of 64.3. Here's another fun fact about Russ. Through his first 4 seasons (peak Seahawks), Russ had the best Yards Per Attempt of anyone in NFL history, forever and ever, Amen. Not the best through the first four years of a career, the best YPA of all the dudes that played all the years. You can say that he didn't throw it as much as other guys, which is a true statement. What you cannot say is there was anyone in the entire NFL who threw a better, more accurate deep ball or was more productive each time they actually threw it than Russell Wilson. It wasn't until his later seasons when the Seahawks couldn't run the ball at all that he started doing more of the Checkdown Charlie 4 yard "running pass plays" that guys like Kirk Cousins have made hundreds of millions of dollars doing. Dude threw B-B-B-ombs that landed in 5-gallon buckets, in huge moments too. When Russ hit Sidney Rice for a game winning 46-yard score against Brady as a Week 6 rookie, (the "You mad bro?" Richard Sherman/Brady game) I had seen everything I needed to. This dummy at Bleacher Report hadn't, but considering the only qualification needed to write for that click-bait rag is the ability to fog up a mirror, I suppose I shouldn't be too upset.
I don't usually stoop to this level and say these kinds of things in the normal flow of sports argument discourse, but if you really do believe in your football opinion heart of hearts that Russell Wilson was some sort of Trent Dilfer/Alex Smith/Jimmy Garoppolo "please don't fuck this up for us" game managing Weekend at Bernie's corpse who wasn't allowed to drive on the freeway and had to have the car home by 10:00, I no longer have use for your opinion on anything football related since it's pretty obvious you didn't actually watch Wilson play, and likely don't really understand what you're seeing when you do watch games. I'm sorry that you were denied a fair amount of oxygen in the womb and/or were dropped on your head a few times by several of your mother's new flavor of the month fuck buddies she met on Adult Friend Finder after your real father left when it appeared you might be red-headed and severely retarded. Child abuse and neglect is no laughing matter and I'm here if you want to talk about what Uncle Todd did to you behind that trailer in Branson.
Perhaps the greatest compliment you can give to Wilson is that he created an environment for GMs to have cover to draft guys like him. If only there were any. Russ was 1 of 1. You can't try to draft players like Russ because most of the time, conventional wisdom is correct when it comes to small quarterbacks. Johnny Manziel, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray should all be sending checks every week to Russell Wilson. None of those guys would have been drafted anywhere near the slots they did if Russ hadn't blazed the trail. Manziel had neither the physical nor mental capabilities of Wilson, being a better fit for The Vanderpump Rules than the NFL. Baker Mayfield didn't have one single skill that would have been rated as high as anything in Wilson's bag, yet the Browns thought he was worthy of the #1 overall pick! Kylie (sorry, Kyler) Murray has looked extremely productive at times, but at the end of the day he is both a mental and physical midget who doesn't love football and is more fragile than a Faberge' egg. When will evaluators ever learn that certain players are so unique that trying to find them in the draft is a complete waste of time. You don't find players like Russell Wilson, they find you. He was by far the best player that came out of the 2012 draft. I don't want to hear for a second that Andrew Luck was better than Russell Wilson. If you really do feel that way, you were likely a baby that was entertained for hours by the simple dangling of car keys. Luck was a turnover machine who missed entire seasons with injuries. He was so reckless and stupid with the football that if he wasn't throwing interceptions he was getting destroyed on run plays trying to be a hero. Eventually it cost him his career. As I previously detailed so eloquently, actually being on the field fucking matters. A lot. Keep telling me how good he could have been (best draft prospect ever!!), and I'll keep telling you how good Wilson actually was.
Russell Wilson was a lot of things. One thing he was not, was a fucking game manager.
The most maddening thing about Russell was that he seemingly found a way to maximize and produce with players like Jermaine Kearse, Riccardo Lockette and Paul Richardson but not Percy Harvin or Jimmy Graham. No greater example of this existed than in Super Bowl 49 itself, with the Seahawks leading pass catcher being a little known receiver named Chris Matthews. I will tell you exactly why he was little known. His first career catch was a 44-yard bomb from Wilson in the Super Bowl. I don't need a data crunching supercomputer to know that there has never been anyone in NFL history who almost won a Super Bowl MVP by having nearly as many yards and touchdowns in that game (109,1) as the entirety of the rest of his career (176,1). Matthews really did perfectly personify Pete Carroll's "next man up" compete-for-all 60 minutes attitude that came to define that era of Seahawk football. In the two games that he played in that season for the Seahawks, Matthews recovered a critical onside kick in the NFC Championship Game that allowed Seattle to eventually best the Packers in overtime, followed by his previously mentioned SB49 heroics 2 weeks later. It's an impossible outlier sequence of events that probably deserves its own article, but for our purposes here it's the perfect example of the Russell Wilson paradox. He always looked like he was frantically running around the kitchen trying to make dinner with leftovers and a poorly stocked spice cabinet instead of just walking over to the refrigerator and using the porterhouse steak that was already prepped and marinated for him.
One of those prepped and marinated steaks John and Pete purchased for Russ was Jimmy Graham. Perhaps it was Seahawks fans looking for a way to soften our misery from SB49 by purchasing a new Corvette, but the Jimmy Graham trade had Seattle fans positively drunk with excitement. Visions of Russell Wilson tossing 15 touchdowns a year to Jimmy Graham danced in our heads. Graham would barely equal that total (18) for the entirety of his time with the Seahawks. Was he a receiver? Was he a tight end? Who gives a shit, it's a touchdown! Sending Pro-Bowl center Max Unger and a first round draft pick to the Saints for the right to ink Jimmy Graham to a new contract seemed like a very fair trade at the time. It's unclear to me whether the Saints knew they were Trojan Horsing us or not, but for once I will be kind and just say Jimmy Graham never even once approached being the field-tilting big 6th grader dominating recess football the Seahawks hoped he would be.
To this day, it still doesn't make sense to me why Jimmy Graham wasn't able to come close to approaching the player he was in New Orleans for the Seahawks. This discussion doesn't wear well now with the benefit of another 10 years of hindsight, but there were legitimate ongoing conversations about whether Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski was the best tight end in the league. How could Russell Wilson and the Seahawks not figure out how to use Jimmy Graham effectively? Adding a 6'7 red-zone touchdown machine to a ball-control offense with the leagues best improvising and throwing-on-the-run QB in Wilson seemed like a perfect fit to say the least. It would be easy to just blame Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell being that Seahawk fans like myself were already shocked he wasnt thrown out of the back of the plane somewhere over the Great Salt Lake on the return trip from Glendale, let alone still gainfully employed for the team. This wouldn't be the first or the last time though that Russell Wilson was a clunky fit with elite skill talent. Though he was certainly fighting injuries and other demons, much of the same could be said about Percy Harvin's time with the team. His touchdown return against the Broncos to open the second half of Super Bowl 48 is for my money the high watermark for on field excitement and joy ever experienced by Seahawk fans, but his time with the Hawks always felt off kilter and disjointed at best.
I'm fully aware that I am the only person left alive who washed ashore on Russell Wilson Island and will die the slow death of starvation and loneliness that comes when nobody even bothers to look for you. I don't pretend to know whether or not Russell Wilson is totally cooked or if Sean Peyton can horse whisper him back to greatness. This is what I do know though. Russell Wilson during his time with the Seahawks was fucking awesome. Period. The End. Go ahead and dismiss my opinion out of hand because I bleed blue and grey, but that statement stands up to any sort of statistical or eye test scrutiny you'd like to throw at it. A common theme that I stress throughout my writing and shout from the mountain tops whenever given the opportunity is the concept that multiple things can be true at the same time independent of each other. Things don't always have to equal a zero sum game. Was Marshawn Lynch awesome? You bet your sweet ass he was. Was the defense one of the most shit-kicking units of all time? Yep, also true. Neither of those statements being true prevents Russell Wilson from also being awesome, integral, and dominant like the other parties mentioned. Which he was. The Seahawks started winning the second Russ got there. Where does the credit go? Everywhere, because the rest of the team was already stocked and ready for Russell to come in and take them over the top. Which he did.
Who honestly gives a shit what % of the awesome pie is assigned to everyone when everyone is awesome?
Teams coming off of Super Bowl appearances have a hard enough time keeping their rosters in tact under normal circumstances, let alone what happened to the Seahawks. The Super Bowl essentially functions as a scouting combine for the other 30 teams not playing in the game. Recency and confirmation biases are on full display here, as teams routinely overvalue players they just saw have success in the game they are trying to get to. Though the contract amounts appear positively laughable now following the salary explosions in the NFL over the past 5 years, Larry Brown, Deion Branch, and Joe Flacco are the best examples I can think of that used Super Bowl MVP honors to garner enormous contracts for the time and ensure that their families would never have to endure the indignity of buying white-label store brands again. The Seahawks never really experienced getting cannibalized by other teams in a significant way. They had other problems though.
The biggest impact of the Butler interception for those Seahawk teams wasn't anything that you could see on the field, at least not immediately. The 2015 Seahawks team still had the core 9 players (Wilson, Lynch, Okung, Baldwin, Wagner, Wright, Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas) under reasonable to great contracts. How John Schneider and the Seahawks were going to tier, structure, and compensate an unprecedented grouping of young All-Pro talent was going just fine so far and would continue to do so --at least on paper anyways. Because they were the youngest team in the NFL, the Hawks actually didn't get their covered raided by the rest of the league. Throughout the entire Russell Wilson era, the Seahawks were able to keep everyone in the building that any reasonable fan could have hoped for. Where they ran in to trouble was how to compensate Russ and keep all of the other giant personalities on the team (Looking straight at you LOB) happy.
This is the fracture that ultimately broke the team after the Malcom Butler play. Sherman and other members of the defense thought that Pete and John wanted Russ to be the MVP of the game, thus making the single worst play call in NFL History considering the circumstances and stakes involved. Earl, Sherman, and Kam wanted quarterback-type compensation and notoriety in a league that just doesn't do that. Russ got his first big contract in the 2015 off-season (4 for 88), thus starting the Seahawks on the slow road to hell.
With Marshawn being a deaf mute and Russ a cliche-spewing Jesus freak Herb, the LOB was by far the most entertaining, recognizable group on the team. In their eyes, they were the group most responsible for the Seahawks success and dominance. It was obvious from the jump that all 3 of those guys were going to be HOF'ers if their careers took normal arcs of longevity and injuries. They were the best secondary ever, period. Sherman wasn't the pure cover corner that Revis was, but nobody had to split hairs to put him on All-Pro teams. I always thought of the trio as Thunder (Kam), Lightning (Sherman) and the Hurricane (Thomas). You never had to wonder if these guys were on the field because they would jump off your screen immediately about every other play at you.
When Marshawn didn't get the ball on that last play, the LOB had their moment in the sun taken too. To have Russ throw that interception and then get a $$bag thrown at him shortly thereafter was a bridge too far for them. The contract disputes of the LOB and the balance of power between them and Russ were ultimately the poison pill that took the '13-14 group to their graves. All 3 members of the LOB eventually showed their true colors though. Part of the bittersweet memories that are associated with the LOB is the unceremonious exit that each of them had from the team.
Sherman just wouldn't ever shut the fuck up. Even super smart dudes gotta STFU once in awhile Sherm. During the early years (2010-2014), Sherman burst onto the NFL scene with an outsized body, style of play, and most notably his personality. He was a content creators dream, with multiple memorable interviews and quotes. I want to be very, very clear about what I'm about to say. I am not implying directly or indirectly that Richard Sherman should have "shut up and dribbled." I also know from first-hand experience that when you are the employee that is constantly upset about things and calling out management both internally and externally, that shit gets really old to those in charge. Pete Carroll was always walking a fine line between letting his players showcase their personalities and individuality and actually trying to run a football team. It was all puppy dogs and rainbows when nobody had gotten paid yet. Eventually though, Sherman just wore out his welcome and it was time for him to go. Sherman either couldn't read the room or didn't care to, but the result was the same. The Seahawks brass just got tired of listening to his bullshit. The next day after being released from the seahawks on March 9th 2018, the ever-petulant Sherman signed a deal with blood-rival San Francisco in the football equivalent of you breaking up with someone only to learn the next day they immediately hopped into bed with your best friend.
2016 brought us the ridiculous Kam Chancellor hold out where he decided the contract he just signed wasn't good enough after all. He wanted some of the Russ money too, but his holdout was a bad look for him. I have to admit the stance that John Schneider took toward him was positively hilarious. Chancellor obviously thought he had some leverage that didn't really exist, as the team categorically refused to negotiate with him. It was a lot like the scene out of Bad Santa where Bernie Mac's character Gin (John Schneider) is negotiating with Willie (BBT) and midget elf Marcus (Tony Cox) over what percentage his take will be in the mall Santa merchandise theft scam Willie and Marcus (Chancellor) have already been running. Gin will not budge one inch off of his demand of 50% of the take, which he (I positively love his interpretation of business math) refers to as "a taste." Marcus begins the negotiation at 30%, to which Gin calmly replies, "Half." This goes on back and forth with Marcus naming every number between 30 and 50 before finally acquiescing to Gin's original and unwavering demand of half. Chancellor eventually capitulated as well when he got hungry and cold and came in the house (Chancellor returned after missing the first 2 games of the season), but things between him and the team were never the same. Chancellor would unfortunately suffer a neck injury in the 2018 season that would force his retirement. I choose to put his holdout and injury on the back burner of my memories of him though, instead deciding to savor the first real offensive play (after the safety) of Super Bowl 48 for the Broncos in which Chancellor sends Damaryius Thomas (R.I.P.) halfway back to Denver with this hit.
The most heartbreaking long-term outcome of anyone on the '13 title team was undoubtedly Earl Thomas. For his time with the Seahawks to end in the ugly fashion that it did after the career he had here is still quite baffling. Its arguable that Thomas was the best overall player on those SB teams, serving as their unquestionable alpha leader on defense. He was just flat out awesome, as previously mentioned perfectly bridging the skills of the other 2 LOB members. All you need to know about Earl is this: If you could find the football on the screen, you could find Earl Thomas nearby it. This can be represented by the following basic logic statement:
If A then B. If B then A. Thus A <--> B where A = Earl Thomas and B=Football.
Stated even more simply:
Find Earl (A), Find Football (B)
Find Football (B), Find Earl (A)
Find Earl (A) or Football (B), Find the other.
His flipping the bird to the Seahawks sideline as he was being carted off the field with what was essentially his career ending injury was one of the most depressing moments I've experienced as a Seahawks fan. His multi-year struggle with the franchise tag and his contract was emblematic of the split within the team once everyone started getting paid. I suppose you could take a cold as ice serial killer approach and say that Pete and John were correct to ultimately not break the bank on Earl due to injury concerns and the positional value of Free Safety, but the whole process just felt shitty and wrong. His struggles in his personal life since that injury have only increased the sadness I feel when I think of Earl. For someone who was the Rock of Gibraltar for the Seahawks to have crumbled in to what he is now is whatever the opposite of Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan Soul is. When Thomas was taken off the field with a broken ankle on September 30th 2018, Paradise had officially been Lost.
One of the many unfortunate realities of the Hawks not being able to gain that final yard and repeat as champions in 2014 was the lasting historical narrative surrounding just how good those Seahawks teams were. Successfully defending a title has only happened 8 times in the history of the NFL. (Sorry Cheeseheads, I'm not counting your pre-Super Bowl era stuff. Kind of like I wouldn't say the guys who played in the NBA in Chuck Taylors could guard Lebron). In consecutive seasons they would have bested Brady and Manning, inarguably the best two quarterbacks of their generation. The defense was certainly good enough to never be forgotten given their dominance on the field and the personalities contained therein, but the names of Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner would be talked about with the reverence they deserve instead of what they will get. Rather, the Seahawks will be remembered as just another one-off title team with a great defense, a petulant running back that wouldn't talk to the media, and an overrated cliche-vomiting game-manager quarterback. The truth as it relates to how the 2013/2014 Seahawks will be remembered won't matter; perception will absolutely become 9/10 of reality.
Super Bowl XLVIII (48) between the Broncos and Seahawks was the most lopsided result (43-8) the game had produced in the last 30 years, specifically since the Cowboys embarrassed the Bills at the Rose Bowl in 1993. (The details and circumstances surrounding Super Bowl 27 are absolutely fascinating to revisit but not the focus of what we're doing here). The Seahawks performance in this game is an absolutely critical and foundational piece in understanding the true lasting impact of the Butler play. Hear me out.
If the 2014 Seahawks had been able to finish the deal against the Patriots, the mystique, wonder, respect, and adulation associated with the 2013 team would have increased by an order of magnitude. The 2013 Seahawks were the most dominant and best overall football team top to bottom the NFL has seen since—you guessed it—those mid-90's Cowboy teams. For the NFL to say the 2013 Seahawks were only the 18th best team of all time is a complete fucking joke and more laughable than their record on hiring black coaches. I'm not going to litigate that list but for the 2007 Patriots, a team that didn't even win the Super Bowl and got beat by a 6'5 Forrest Gump impersonator with far less personality and accomplishments to be ranked ahead of them let's me know whatever Gen Z social media dummy that put this list together likely still brings his laundry over to Mom's house when the coin operated laundry at his rat trap apartment complex is down again. This is what you get when you only win 1 Super Bowl though. You must suffer fools that just don't know better. The 2013 and 14' Seahawks were absolutely as dominant as those Cowboy teams that won 3 of 4 Super Bowls in the 90s; they just didn't play in Dallas where the TV ratings show us again and again that most of you would rather watch the Cowboys backup towel manager take a dump on IG Live while fingering the AV guy through a Glory Hole than just about any form of actual football.
I don't think it's even debatable if the exact same players and results associated with just the 2013 Seahawks were transposed to the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL themselves would have sponsored a nationwide parade for the Cowboys in which all interstate freeways were shut down for 3 weeks so that Jerry Jones could personally lead the 9,000 mile procession at 6mph from the front seat of a Longhorn Cadillac.
I totally get it when it comes to how Seattle is perceived in a majority of our country. We are up here in Southeast Alaska with our Starbucks and our rain and our computers commenting on how nice each other's L.L. Bean turtlenecks look. I'm not here to cape up for Seattle and tell you what you should care about. What I am telling you though is personalities like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, and especially the mercurial Marshawn Lynch would have been burned into your eyeballs and ears from leading every show on ESPN for 3 years straight if the 2013 Seahawks had been the 2013 Cowboys. Skip Bayless' head probably would have clean exploded in one of his table pounding "How bout them Cowboys!!" rants if he had the players previously mentioned to yell about as Cowboys. Now that I think about it, maybe that's the greatest tragedy in all of this; Skip Bayless' head not exploding.
God help us if the 2014 SeaCows had beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to win consecutive Super Bowls. Jerry Jones would still be on tour selling promotional highlight DVDs chewing Viagra in between viewing parties at Hampton Inn conference rooms nationwide.
The tally of the complete fallout of the Butler Interception can only be truly understood with the perspective that comes with SB49 being now almost 10 years in the rearview mirror. That play took something from everyone, including the team as a whole. Even Ricardo Lockette, the crestfallen target of that ill-fated pass, was snakebit the following season when he suffered a career ending neck ligament injury against the Cowboys on a special teams play. If Lockette had caught that Super Bowl winning pass, he would have been the knighted as the unequivocal personification of "Next Man Up". The legend of 2x Super Bowl winning coach Pete Carroll would have included the narrative that even in the team's highest stakes, most pressure filled moments he still trusted every player to make any play at any time. It would have been too perfect, which is why it didn't happen.
This comment won't land well now given his previous season in Denver, but Russell Wilson really was on the Brady track. Had the seahawks won that game, Russell would have garnered 2 championships in his first three seasons. They might have won in 2012 as well if the defense didn't throw up on their leg against the Falcons and allow a Mahomes-like last second field goal drive by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to beat them. I'm not saying that Russell Wilson would have been Tom Brady. He would have been off to a hell of a start though.
Who knows what would have happened to the LOB and the rest of the Seahawks had they been victorious in Super Bowl 49. Winning championships in professional sports is impossibly difficult. Nobody does it without a fair amount of luck and circumstance. I could fill a 1,000 page book with the woulda/coulda/shoulda of teams that didn't win championships, should have won championships, and should have won more championships than they did. All of that is entirely speculative. Something that wasn't speculative was what faced the Seahawks on that 2nd and 1 play from the Patriots goal line. If Russell would have just said the following 5 little words in the huddle, no one would have ever forgotten the story of just how special the 2013 and '14 Seahawks really were.
"Marshawn on three. Ready, Break!"
¹ I'm going to refer to Hilary Step as "Hillary's Step" because I like how it sounds and I think it's a more appropriate label. Being that it's basically gone now after the devastating 2015 Nepalese earthquake, I'm not sure who I'd be offending by not calling it by it's official name. It was quite literally Edmond Hilary's Step, so I'm going to take some creative liberty and change it to the singular possessive. I'm not an English teacher, nor do I much care if I'm violating any grammatical rules.
²This is the number of carries that Marshawn Lynch had attempted as a Seahawk, inclusive of both regular and postseason games, prior to not receiving the final carry in the 2015 Super Bowl.